after the sleeping comes the waking up.

Do they need us or do we need them?

Posted by c. wagner on November 9, 2009

I’m working my way through an interesting little book called Captured by Aliens by Joel Achenbach which covers how the idea of life on another planet has captivated the imaginations of both scientists and folks on the street. Running through the book is the idea that aliens (or at least the idea of aliens) fills a deep psychological need in people.

We don’t want to be alone, particularly in a place that’s one hundred thousand light years in diameter. [page 66]

Humans are wired to find patterns, meaning, in what they experience. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  The more bigger things the better. But Achenbach has a fascinating point about this need to belong.

This is what might be called the Central Irony of the UFO world. The belief in aliens is, at first glance, a firm embrace of the Copernican Principle. Humans are not the center of the universe. There are other intelligences. They are, indeed, smarter and more advanced. And yet these other intelligences are obsessed with us. They come across mind-boggling reaches of space to meet us, experiment with us, mate with us. We have such enchanting DNA, they just can’t stay away. Ufology, for all its generosity in filling the universe with life, nonetheless has a distinctly anthropocentric flavor. [page 35]

The same could apply to many of those bigger things we like to believe it, couldn’t it? Everything out there needs us. To influence, to protect, to observe, to explore, and for us to praise it.

It’s all about us.

And, in a lot of ways, these bigger things are often used as an excuse not to take responsibility for ourselves.

That’s why people are so desperate for contact–what we really want is for the aliens to save us from the trouble we’ve manufactured for ourselves. [page 267]

It’s scary to contemplate a universe where nothing is there looking out for us. It’s scary to think that we are responsible for ourselves.  It’s scary to say that we’re powerful enough to take care of ourselves.

And, somehow, this is still exciting. Yeah, it’s all about us, but not in the way that a lot of us seem to think.


One Response to “Do they need us or do we need them?”

  1. Rummi said

    i’m partly a huge sci-fi buff because i do think it would be sad if it were only us with all that space wasted. would it be neat if aliens came and visited in my lifetime? yeah. would i be sad if they didn’t? no. would it just be enough to know that there were other creatures outside of this planet going on with their own lives? yeah.

    but i don’t need anyone taking care of us. and i don’t think they need me to take care of them. we can exist as equals.

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